Desnuda is a delightful little wine and cevicheria, that’s hard to find unless you’re looking for it. Located on the unusually busy East 7th Street in the Village, the small storefront lacks any signage. You need to know the street address, otherwise it’s really easy to continually walk past the dark entrance. It’s conveniently located right across from the famed Big Gay Ice Cream Shop so when you see that bright, rainbow sign, walk right across the street and you’re there.
Once you duck inside, the narrow space allows for bar seating only, with hardly any area to wait. Luckily, a few spaced out, single seats were available. Upon stating that I needed two seats together, without even asking, a few kind patrons adjusting their seating arrangements to allow me to have two seats next to each other. It was such a pleasant way to start my dining experience.
As I waited for my sister, I noticed the waiter filling up paper cones with popcorn adding some kind of spray and salt on top. He placed the cone in front of me, explaining that it was truffle and salted popcorn, on the house. Talk about a wonderful way to start off the meal.
The waiter was remarkably friendly and understanding about the fact that my whole party hadn’t arrived yet. It was such a pleasant surprise compared to the countless restaurants that won’t let you sit down, or even acknowledge your party on a wait list until everyone was accounted for.
Once Leigh finally walked in the door, I had looked over the menu countless times and gawked at the off the menu, specialty items placed in front of the individuals around me. One of the most intriguing was a foie gras, seared tuna and raw tuna tower. I watched the chef, Dominick, artfully prepare the delicate foie gras in a small pan directly in front of me. Desnuda does not have a kitchen. In fact, I don’t even think they have a back area. Instead all of the intricate dishes are prepared behind the bar, giving new meaning to working with the space you’ve got. Despite the luxurious and intriguing nature of the special, we decided to stick to the dishes which lured us to the East Village, ceviche.
After careful consideration, we opted to start with the King Salmon Ceviche, and a few minutes later we added the Seared Scallop dish.
To our surprise, the scallop dish came out first. With one bite, we quickly stopped caring about the order.
The flavors and textures were so complex and unusual. The lightly seared scallop had a beautiful crust with a raw and bright interior. The soy, citrus glaze was enhanced by the addition of orange slices and sesame seeds on the plate driving home the flavor combinations. The real highlight was the subtle acidity of the citrus, played off by its use in multiple forms. Chopped cilantro on top of the fish added an earthiness rounding out the entire dish.
We devoured each piece with our chopsticks, enjoying every bite and essentially licking the sauce clean from the plate. Just when we thought the meal couldn’t get any better, chef Dom came over without King Salmon Ceviche and a blow torch in hand.
The chef brûléed sweet potato on both sides of the dish until a golden bubbling crust formed on top. He then explained the dish and left us to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Presentation at its finest.
This incredible dish reinvented the conventional notions of ceviche. The thick, rich pieces of salmon were cut beautifully glowing a bright, gorgeous orange color. The pieces of fish were tossed with a wild combination of textures including almonds, orange slices, onions and sesame seeds. Each component gave a different depth of flavor with the almonds being the most addictive and sweet part. A lovely sauce of sticky, sweet citrus puree sat on the bottom of the dish. The brûléed sweet potato seemed completely separate but was one of the most delicious parts of the entire dish. The sugar crust kept the inside of the potato moist and decadent.
The dishes at Desnuda are constantly changing based on seasonally fresh ingredients. Each item is prepared fresh with lots of time and care, so be prepared to wait a little until your dishes arrive. But luckily you have truffle popcorn and a lovely wine selection to help hold you over.
It’s an amazing spot for a date night, but not for an intimate meal. Sitting at a bar can sometimes be distracting for some types of people, but if you can look past that fact, the atmosphere is wonderful and waitstaff extremely friendly. I wouldn’t suggest going here with any more then two or three people, since it’s difficult to find more seats together and conversations can be hard. So pick your best friend or best guy/girl and find this little cevicheria in the East Village. It will be sure to please.
Desnuda – 122 East 7th Street – New York, NY
Location: East Village, NY
Perfect For: Impressing Foodies, Quality Seafood, Date Night
Reservations: Not Accepted
Favorite Dishes: King Crab Ceviche, Seared Scallop
Notes: On Sunday & Monday’s Desnuda offers $1 Oysters